Tuesday, September 25, 2018

EEI confers Emergency Assistance Award to several stateside companies for Puerto Rico mission

By on June 8, 2018

SAN JUAN – The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) presented Dominion Energy, Florida Power & Light Co., OG&E, Southern Company, ITC Holdings Corp. and WEC Energy Group with the association’s special 2018 Emergency Assistance Award for their contributions to the emergency power restoration mission in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

The EEI represents U.S. investor-owned electric companies, as well as more than 60 international electric companies and “hundreds of industry suppliers and related organizations.” Its newly conferred award recognizes efforts of “companies to assist fellow utilities in times of need.”

“The power restoration effort in Puerto Rico was a massive and unprecedented mission, and electric companies from across the country…responded to the call for help,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said in a media release.

Nearly 60 private and public power utilities sent about 3,000 lineworkers and support personnel, more than 1,000 trucks and materials to help restore power to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Virgina-based Dominion Energy was honored as one of the many companies that provided mutual assistance to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa). It sent 80 lineworkers and 55 company vehicles to the island. Crews worked 14-hour days for four weeks, restoring power to nearly 2,000 customers while setting up 226 new poles and replacing more than 14 miles of wire.

“Helping in Puerto Rico was both a privilege and an honor,” said Robert M. Blue, president and CEO of Dominion’s Power Delivery Group.

“What has stuck with all of us is the warmth and graciousness of those in the Commonwealth who were without electricity for so long. Despite their own very real challenges, they welcomed us into their homes from day one. Their resiliency and positive spirit fueled our employees during long, strenuous work days, so much so that it inspired our teams to often give back once their 16-hour workday was complete. This mission was about more than simply restoring electric service. This was about helping our fellow Americans in their greatest time of need,” Florida Power & Light (FPL) President and CEO Eric Silagy said in a company release.

FPL’s team of more than 400 men and women worked for nearly 200 days, restoring power to approximately 30,000 homes in the aftermath of Maria. FPL said its support of the restoration effort began even before the company completed its own restoration to 4.4 million customers following Hurricane Irma in September.

The company coordinated the delivery of power poles and other electric equipment to the island. In January, the first of three waves of FPL lineworkers, management and support staff started restoring service. “Some employees volunteered to remain in Puerto Rico for three months, working 16-hour days on a schedule of 30 days on, one day off,” the company added.

On Dec. 28, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. sent 50 of its vehicles to Puerto Rico, followed by more than 120 crew members and support personnel.

“During their 40 days on the island, our crews safely restored power to thousands of citizens in Puerto Rico,” Keith Mitchell, OG&E’s chief operating officer stated after receiving the award. “Even with living in the dark for up to five months, the people of Puerto Rico were so gracious and kind,” he added.

PowerSecure, a subsidiary of Southern Company, began working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soon after the disaster, and equipment and crews from Southern utilities–Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power–”joined the mutual assistance effort and shipped hundreds of trucks…to the island via barge,”

“The enormous commitment and hard work shown throughout our company and the entire industry was paramount in restoring Puerto Rico’s energy grid,” Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning, said in a release.

Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group’s two electric subsidiaries in Wisconsin, We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service, were among them. They sent more than 70 employees, the majority of whom worked on the island for eight weeks.

“This was an unprecedented effort for us, sending crews and equipment outside the continental United States for the first time in our company’s history,” Gale Klappa, chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group, said in its release.

Puerto Rican native Pedro Meléndez “played a key leadership and coordination role at the Incident Command center where he was able to apply ITC’s operational excellence model for restoration and recovery,” Michigan-based ITC Holdings said in a separate release. It is considered the largest independent electricity transmission company in the United States.

“We are proud to have been part of EEI’s efforts in Puerto Rico in addition to participating as part of the Fortis Inc. family of companies who led recovery efforts throughout the Caribbean with their subsidiaries who were impacted by the destruction,” ITC President and CEO Linda Apsey added.

Nearly 200 lineworkers and personnel from EEI members were honored in San Diego during a San Diego Padres vs. Atlanta Braves pregame ceremony for their contributions to the emergency power restoration. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Carlos Torres, a retiree from New York’s Con Edison who served as the Power Restoration Coordinator in Puerto Rico.

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